Jun 12, 2009

Brain Research on Wisdom: Implications for Attachment

Thomas Meks and Dilip Jeste, two neuroscientists at the University of CA at San Diego have completed a detailed "meta-analysis" of several decades worth of research and have found that many of the characteristics that we associate with wisdom (social decision making, control of emotions, balancing competing values and objectives, etc) may be accounted for by the activity of just a few brain regions. They term this the "wisdom network."

The anterior cigulate cortex is one part of this network. It detects conflicts and makes decisions. Recently psychologists at Stanford U found that activity in this region predicts how we balance short term and long term rewards. Wisdom involves both logical calculations and the influence of emotions, feelings, and instincts. For this we turn to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, among other regions of the brain. A recent study from the U of Iowa and Caltech found that damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex made people less susceptible to guild and led to poor social decision making.

What does this mean for attachment, trauma, and treatment? Well, we know that these, and other important areas of the brain are heavily influenced by early childhood experiences and that chronic early maltreatment within a caregiving relationship (Complex Trauma) result is poorer functioning and integration of these and other significant areas of the brain (See Daniel Siegel's and A. Shore's seminal works on the influence of attachment and brain development and functioning for more details). In other words, early experiences affect the development of patterns of attachment and affect brain development. The integration of various systems of the brain involved in assessing and managing relationships, emotions, and other "executive functions," is directly affected by early parent-child relationships. The implications of this for assessment, treatment, child welfare policies and practices is obvious. Early relationships have a long-term and significant impact on latter development and functioning because of the effects of these experiences on brain development and integration.

1 comment:

Arthur Becker-Weidman, PhD said...

I hope readers find this material of interest and value